Hands-on review: Imou Ranger IQ home security camera
Image credit: E&T Magazine
The Imou Ranger IQ home security camera is packed with well-executed features. For less than £100, you get decent image quality, reliable human detection, and plenty of customisation options, although its app could use some improvement.
The Ranger IQ is a black ball-shaped camera about the size of a grapefruit (8cm in diameter) mounted in a circular stand. It is covered in black plastic casing with a small transparent window in front of the lens. It weighs in at 155g. Its design is unobtrusive – disappearing well into the corner of a room – and unlikely to become dated any time soon.
The camera connects to the mains via micro USB. It comes with all the components you need to mount it on a ceiling or wall (screws, mounting plate and guide), as well as a cable and adaptor.
Imou products are controlled using the Imou Life app, which is available on the Play Store and App Store.
The device is paired with the app by scanning the QR code on a label on its base. This reviewer had some time-consuming teething problems (caused by issues such as denying the app location permissions) but once these pieces are in place, the pairing process is simple and takes only a couple of minutes.
The app could use some improvement, with some aspects seeming unfinished or untested. These vary from a harmless smattering of Chinglish phrasing to an unintuitive layout, which proved frustrating at times. It takes a non-trivial amount of experimentation to understand where everything is in the app.
If the camera is set up to detect human motion (the most useful setting) the app will compile for you a stack of clips featuring humans, which are surprisingly difficult to navigate. The app separates clips by day, but in a single day you may have dozens of clips, all which have pretty much the same preview image. Navigating clips is made more complicated by the fact that they were timestamped with China Standard Time despite our app being set to 'UK'. We couldn’t work out how to change this.
While we got to know the app well enough to use most features, we would not take for granted that a person less familiar with technology would be able to use it without support.
Although its app is nothing to write home about, the Imou Ranger IQ hardware is well made with decent image quality and a useful set of features.
The camera has SD and HD modes: even in SD mode the image quality is good with a wide field of view and not too much distortion around the edges. Here is a frame from HD video footage captured indoors during daytime with the subject in motion:
And snapshots taken during the day in SD and HD:
Promotional material for the Imou Ranger IQ promises that it provides “crystal-clear video” under day and night-time conditions. This is a stretch, but the Imou Ranger IQ does a decent job of capturing detail in low-light conditions; I’d trust it to produce useful footage of a midnight break-in or badgers digging up a back garden. These are snapshots taken indoors at night with conditions ranging from limited overhead lighting to essentially no light at all.
The camera can rotate 355° on its base. You can easily make the camera swivel in any direction with a single touch in the app; the camera is extremely responsive.
The camera also has an inbuilt speaker and microphone (sensitive enough to pick up a normal speaking voice in the same room, although background noise is unfiltered). The camera allows for two-way talk; from anywhere in the world you can use the app to speak to somebody near the camera with only the slightest delay. We imagine this could be useful for people wanting to check on their child or pet while they are away, but this reviewer’s partner hated it.
The Imou Ranger IQ is promoted as a home-security camera, and we believe it ticks all the boxes. The image quality is good enough such that the faces of people in the same room as the camera appear clear and identifiable in video footage. To put it bluntly, if you had been burgled you would feel relieved to have footage from this camera to pass on to the police. The camera’s AI features, however, are what makes it ideal for home-security purposes.
The device offers not just motion detection but also highly reliable human detection and tracking, with lots of options for customisation. When set to detect humans, the camera never failed to detect people while ignoring other moving objects, such as a dog. Its human tracking is accurate, although the camera pans a little too slowly to follow people moving around it with high angular velocity.
You can choose to get notifications when the camera detects motion, humans or abnormally loud noises above a customisable threshold. The app will immediately send you a push notification and a short clip of the incident every time it detects something of interest, which you can download to your phone. You can also set the camera to play a loud annoying siren or recorded message to startle intruders when it is triggered (worth a few hours of fun of you have a childish sense of humour, or a child).
Turning on geofencing prevents you piling up masses of notifications (and hence creating a stack of unnavigable clips) while you are home. You can schedule different settings so you don’t need to fiddle with them every time you walk through the front door. You can also set a region within the frame in which the camera ignores motion: useful if a swinging pendulum or something similarly mobile and mundane is in frame. We would also recommend adjusting detection sensitivity if you have the device set to detect all motion; the default settings produced multiple notifications for clips where nothing appeared to move in the frame
For people who are interested in building a fully connected home, the device has Alexa, Google and IFTTT compatibility.
We found that the device occasionally goes offline after about 12 hours of being shielded and the app being inactive. We haven’t been able to discern a pattern in this yet, but this could be concerning if you plan to rely on the camera while leaving home for several days.
Regarding privacy, you can switch on shielding while you are home and a plastic shield will come down to cover the lens. If you do feel uncomfortable with your private video footage being stored on a far-flung server, you can localise data storage by buying a standard microSD card or recording to another storage device using NVR.
Cloud storage varies in cost, with better rates when you buy a longer blocks of storage. Imou offers three-day (£1.69), seven-day (£2.49), and 30-day (£5.99) plans. This reviewer would personally prefer to buy a microSD card and not worry about ongoing costs, but others may prefer the convenience of cloud storage.
Most of the biggest tech companies have some blood on their hands and – for ethically minded people – buying a new gadget can sometimes feel like choosing between the lesser of evils. However, it would be irresponsible not to mention that Imou is a subsidiary of Dahua Technology, a partially state-owned company which has been blacklisted by US authorities for its alleged role in surveillance of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.
If you are looking for a budget home security camera, the Imou Ranger IQ is a good candidate. There are cameras out there with higher resolution footage and better apps, but this one stands out for its range of genuinely useful and smart features.
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